Anything legal, by mail

Part 6 of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life

-1-   -2-   -3-   -4-   -5-   -6-   -7-   -8-

The latest Pathetic Life (#22) was great! I'm concerned about you eating cat food, however. Has this really become necessary? 

I must admit I'm genuinely curious as to how it tastes, but not curious enough to give it a try. Though I know it's probably healthier than 95% of the stuff that either of us would otherwise eat, I suspect it requires swallowing a great deal of self-respect to adequately wash it down, and it's self-respect that keeps us from becoming truly pathetic.

Of course, it also occurs to me that on some level you may have been nudged over this line by the gleeful expectation that it would provoke some readers. My guess is, you'll not only receive letters of concern and condemnation, but also a shitload of 'Little Friskies' coupons from those who think themselves clever.

If that's what you want I'll keep my eyes open, and forward what I can.

—Paul Kazee,

I never worry about swallowing too much self-respect, since I don't have much to begin with. What little I got is not imperiled by eating cat food.

Buying 9 Lives saves a little money, that's all. Six cans of cat food cost the same as four cans of tuna, and the taste difference isn't nearly as much as the price difference.

It's not a plea for help or Friskies freebies, though the latter would be welcome.

Closest I've come to any gleeful expectations of provoking readers is thinking after (but never before) some strange turn of events, that it might make an interesting entry.

And now with the zine ending, even that's gone… —DH


Ten dollars enclosed, for a couple hours work (not necessarily consecutive). 

Hour one: 

20 minutes ± — MOAN. Optional: clothing, creaming, yelling, sobbing, throwing tantrums, shaking, quaking, growling.

20 minutes ± — OM. Express sound, any sounds. Gibberish will do.

20 minutes ± — GET DOWN. Like a baby sucking its toes, explore minute detail with wonder. Dance, dance Dougness, let your ineluctable quiddity, your inescapable natural essence percolate to the surface.

Hour two:

10 minutes ± — LAUGH. Laugh deep belly laughs. At first you may have to use a little force to prime to pump, but keep after it until it's naturally real.

40 minutes ± — BREATHE. Breathe a continual breath, lying on your back. Don't allow any pauses between inhale and exhale or exhale and inhale. Accentuate the inhale a little, let the exhale just fall out of its own accord. Don't force a rhythm; let the breath be what it is.


There you have it. That's what I got for you now: Moan, om, get down, laugh, breathe. No sleeping on the job.

—Dan Landrum,
San Diego

Thank you for the ten dollars, and for giving me the business, Dan. Here's your requested documentation:

MOAN & OM: After ten minutes of moaning this morning, the guy in the next room threw a shoe or something at the wall, and started yelling that I should shut the hell up. He sounded angry, but you'd hired me to do a job so darn it, I moaned even louder to drown out his yelling.

Someone in the room on the other side started hollering too, and after several minutes my first neighbor yelled that he was going downstairs to tell the landlord.

Soon came a knock at the door. It was the landlord, with both my angry neighbors standing with him. Mr Patel said there'd been complaints about the noise, but by then I'd finished the moaning and was oming instead, quite quietly.

"Please excuse me," I said, "but I am meditating here," and then I resumed oming. Mr Patel looked at the complainers, and said that my religious ritual seemed harmless, and he told my neighbors not to bother him again. I flipped all three of them the finger, after closing the door.

GETTING DOWN: Mostly I danced, which went off without major incident, though I did pull a calf muscle. I'll be filing for worker's comp.

LAUGH: My leg was hurting a lot, so the giggles were artificial at first, until another shoe flew against the wall, and my neighbor started yelling at me again to shut up. After that, I began truly laughing — at my neighbor, myself, my laughing, at you, and at the entire human condition.

BREATHE: This was my favorite part of working for you, Dan. It was invigorating, all kidding aside. Extra oxygen must be good for you or something. By the end of that 40 minutes of heavy breathing, an aura of serenity enveloped me, and felt so at peace I wouldn't have known I was me.

DOCUMENTATION FOR EMPLOYER: Next to shaving that guy's ass in March, this was the oddest gig I've done yet.

About half of what I've written above didn't actually happen, which I hope was obvious, but I did do everything you assigned. Thanks for hiring me, Dan.

Writing it up, though, took about twenty minutes longer than the ten minutes you'd allocated. At my standard rate of $5 an hour, please send an additional $1.67 in compensation. —DH 


I forget what issue was the last one I got — one meal got two paws up and someone needed their butt buttered. So this $6 cash is for the next two issues after that issue.

—E Olexa,
Washington DC


Guilt-free impersonal correspondence: This mail compels no reply, nor is one expected or desired. Read lightly, with a sense of relief:

Though you dislike poetry, the enclosed bit reminded me a little of your SF cavortings. Unenjoy it in peace:

13th Avenue Blues
by Ron 'Misha' Seymour

Officer, officer,
I'd like to know
why you can stand here,
and I have to go

It gives me the blues
I gotta say
how our human rights
are being taken away
more day by day

Musicians, storytellers,
artists and mimes
are being silenced
all of the time

Let's take back the street
with guitars and song
with clowns in our hearts
we can all sing along

The war against people
has gone on too long;
the war against panhandling,
and sucking one's thumb

Many thanks for Pathetic Life #22. Could take issue with lots of your statements, but will resist the temptation. That's not why I'm here in your tired hands, though I can't resist mentioning (hope it's not seen as a nitpick) that on page 11 a minor factual error has crept into the second paragraph: The late Vince Edwards was the star of Ben Casey, not Dr Kildare (that starred Richard Chamberlain). Smile, will you…

Food: "Grow your own" is cheapest, when you account for everything. Try window boxes and community gardens, for those without plots of their own. Next best are farmers' markets, wholesale bulk food distributors, direct off the farm, roadside stands, community co-ops, etc. Buy the basics and staples in bulk whenever possible.

Clothes: Make your own. It's easier than one thinks, once you get the sewing mastered. By hand, or a treadle machine works well. Buy good cheap fabric that wears hard, in bolts, and sew away. Also wholesalers and liquidation sales. And discounted, blemished, irregular and short lot stocks can frequently be had for a fraction of retail.

Shaving: For those who still insist, try a straight razor. Used ones come cheap, and it's easy, but not for the nervous-handed. Plain soap, like after washing your hair, works well as a shaving cream.

Reusables: If you can't re-use the packaging, don't bring it into your place. Otherwise mountains of unusables make life miserable and the task of disposal a chore.

Books: Libraries don't always carry what you want. If not, there are plenty of places to purchase cheap used books for pennies on the dollar.

Transportation: Besides mass transit, there's a good cheap bike, and of course heel 'n toe.

Cleaning: For the body, a simple sponge bath, using a small bowl of water and a washcloth or sponge usually works. For clothes and linens, try having a few to get dirty. Also try airing them out dry, spot cleaning, and the old reliable hand-washing if needed.

Overall: When in doubt, do without. It's amazing how much of the "essentials" we don't need at all. Beware of spending money — instead barter, scrounge, modify, make. If buy you must, never pay the retail list price if you can help it. Instead buy it discount, used, liquidation, rummage sales, or via co-ops, flea markets, swap meets, and yard sales.

But please remember, the point isn't just living on less. You can do that in the gutter. The point is to live well on a little. That's the secret, and the art. Also, the most difficult.

This is only a small portion of cheap ways I've found to live. There's much more.

Beyond the edge,

—K Ryan,
Eugene OR

The poem is beautiful, and those are all good cost-cutting suggestions.

I am falling in love with one of your ideas I'd never heard before, about packaging: If you can't re-use it, don't bring it into your place.

Other than food, I don't buy much that's new and has packaging, but when I do, getting rid of what it came in is such a chore. You're stuck with a big box to be broken down, crazy styrofoam blocks, needles and cardboard if you buy clothes, and almost everything comes wrapped in layers of plastic.

"Don't bring it into your place," you say, and K, that's brilliant, seriously. The next time I buy a toaster oven or a microwave or a shirt or a radio or even batteries, I am going to unwrap it in the parking lot, and leave the mess in the trash for the store to deal with. —DH 


This is being written while biting a bullet. Pain level is drilling away, I'm up and down, back and forth, to the page, to the kitty, to the potty, to the decaf, to the window, to the page again, to better flip-flops and a jean-jacket now over a pink Victoria's Secret stretch camisole (don't get hot, I could be your muthah), and back to the page.

If it goes over two hours between meds, I get wild like this. Waiting for the soma to kick in.

The pain is always there, bad, then worse, and then just bad. I can handle bad, but not worse. So fuck, man. Sometimes it pisses me off, other times it makes me very sad.

—Pamela Smith,
Petaluma CA


More of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life:

-1-   -2-   -3-   -4-   -5-   -6-   -7-   -8-

From Pathetic Life #25
June, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2023: The author of the poem, Ron 'Misha' Seymour, may have also written this letter to the editor of the L A Times, and ran for City Council in Eugene, Oregon. Presumably he lost that election, because there's little more about him on the internet.

Like so many other people mentioned in Pathetic Life, I wonder what ever became of Ron 'Misha' Seymour. 

And Pamela in Petaluma, I wonder now and probably wondered then but don't think I ever even asked, were you ill with something fatal?

Whatever it was, Pamela, I hope you got better, and if not I hope the pain was well-managed with drugs on your way out.


  1. Captain HampocketsJuly 9, 2023 at 2:46 PM

    I feel that I will never know the answer to this, but - did you ever actually eat cat food, in anything other than an experimental amount?

    I remember you wrote about someone sending you a stupid amount of Mac and cheese box mixes, and tuna - that was my friends Henry and Christy, before you and I had met. They are the ones who got me and Shawna together. You met them at our wedding.

    1. Yeah? Well please tell Henry & Christy that I said thank you again. One of the big unexpecteds of doing that zine was people sending me gifts out of the blue, and not counting a blowjob, none of those gifts was better than that big box of mac and cheese.

      Cat food? Over the course of a couple of years back then, I'd guess I ate 12-15 cans of it.

      I ate lotsa sandwiches at that point, often tuna, and when money was tight enough that a few dollars matter, the tuna was cat food.

    2. I always wondered how much of the cat food talk was your artistic license. Now I know.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.